Friday, February 26, 2010

Finland Edge Nordic Rivals for Women's Bronze In OT

Finland was looking for their first Women's Olympic Hockey Medal since the first ever tournament in 1998 while Sweden was coming their best performance in 2006 with the upset over the U.S.A. to win the Silver Medal.

For Finland, a back and fourth game where the Finns got the Finns and Sweden to OT before Erika Holst's skate blade a quarter of the way through OT to clinch Finland the Bronze Medal. This is the big goal that Finland was looking for after a couple of sub par performance's in the Women's Olympic Tournament. However, they have made up for it with Bronze Medals in the last 2 World Women's Championship Tournaments.

One of the biggest parts of the Bronze Medal was Finnish Goalie Noora Raty was easily the best player for Finland, and helped keep Finland stay in the Semifinal against Canada earlier in the week. After ending the Olympic Medal Drought, hopefully it will help the Women's Program from getting more money support and more young players to play the game.

Also for Sweden, this ends a medal streak that goes back to 2002 where they won Bronze in 2002, and one of the biggest upsets in Women's Hockey History as the Swedes beat the U.S.A. in the Semifinals to help win the Silver Medal. After the North American Powers, the Northern European Rivals is the next big rivals and are in the always in the hunt for a Medal in the Olympics and Women's World Championships.

Hopefully this can help the sport in Finland and Sweden as hopefully sometime soon that either Finland or Sweden can have a team that can win Gold in both events. And in the newly created World Junior Women's Championships in the near future that made its international debut in 2008.

Both teams should be honored for a job well done as the are the 2 European Teams that want the Women's Game to do well by creating Women's Development Programs, getting to play for College Teams in North America and eventually help create Women's Pro Leagues around the world.

Finland VS. Sweden Bronze Medal Pictures:

Finland VS. Sweden Bronze Medal Game Summary:

From Risto Pakarinen of the International Ice Hockey Federation Website:

Finland and Sweden went full rounds in the Women's Bronze Medal Game. Karoliina Rantamaki got the game winning goal 2:33 into the Overtime Period when the puck bounced in Erika Holst's skate blade,

"This is a huge medal for women's hockey in Finland. It will help us get better financial support, and obviously, when girls playing hockey in Finland to see that we won a medal in the Olympics, they may want to be here, too," said Finland's goaltender Noora Raty.

"We expected the game to be like it was, it was a tight game, and not a lot of goals, but it was great," said Finland's Mariia Posa.

"Our goalie was great, and the whole team defended well", she added.

Finland has won the last two bronze medals at the Women's World Championship-beating Sweden in the tournament in 2009-but haven't medaled in the Olympics since 1998. But the Finns stayed out of the box for just 43 seconds as defensemen Rosa Lindstedt for a hooking minor. The Finnish penalty kill, and Raty, had little trouble with the Swedish power play, though.

"We were a little nervous in the beginning, and it's hard to lay out your best game when your nervous. We're happy to win, though." Raty said.

The Finns were given their chance to grab control of the game, when Jenni Asserholt Nevalainen took a slashing minor at 8:11. Unfortunately for the Finns, their power play was also an ineffective as the Men's had been just 15 hours prior, in their game against the Czechs.

With about 7 seconds to go, Raty robbed Sweden's Mariah Rooth by making a quick glove save on Rooth's shot from the slot. Keeping the Swedish still goalless forwards still goalless in the tournament.

In the 2nd period, Sweden gave Finland another power play-Frida Nevalainen, tripping- but Shara Grahn in the Swedish Goal was just as impressive as Raty had been for the Finns earlier. However, seconds after Nevalainen got back on the ice, Finland's Heidi Pelttari got the puck on top of the left faceoff circle, she took a couple of steps in and fired a wrist shot from the faceoff dot, and beat Grahm high on the glove side to give Finland the important 1-0 lead.

And given multiple chances, Sweden finally converted one. At 31:11 Mariia Posa was sent to the penalty box for tripping. Isabelle Jordansson fired up a slap shot from the blue line, and Maria Rooth netted her first goal of the tournament, by deflecting the shot from the slot, beating Raty high on her glove shot at 32:24, and tied the game.

Just 36 seconds later, the Finns were down a player again, but managed to kill the team penalty off. In the next shift, Michelle Karvinen got the puck in the Finnish Zone, and she came flying down the ice on the right lane, beat a Swedish Defensemen on the offensive blue line, and cut to the front of the net, went around Grahn and then slammed the puck to the back off the net to give Finland a 2-1 lead at 36:02.

Another penalty would prove to be costly. Pelttarit took a hooking penalty, and the Swedes got to work. Elin Holmlov played the puck to Gunilla Andersson on the point. She onetimed it to the net, Raty made a pad save but Danijela Rundqvist got the rebound. Raty made another save. Rundqviust was the first to grab the second rebound and she put the puck in the net with a backhander, at 45:09.

Sweden got another power play opportunity when Mari Saarinen took a body checking minor, but is slipped through the fingers when Pernilla Wineberg took a penalty for high sticking 43 seconds later. The game went to OT tied at 2-2.

"Before OT, our coaches told us we were the stronger team and we just had to keep believing in our ourselves. If we did, we'd eventually win," said Sweden's Maria Rooth. Faith just wasn't enough, Especially since the other team had some of that, too.

"I never thought we'd get to a penalty shootout, I believed we'd win the game in OT. We were the better team, we moved better. I wasn't with the team so I don't know what he said, but I think he'd just tell the players to get some pucks out of the net," said goaltender Raty.

A little over two minutes into it, Karoliina Rantamaki sent a pass towards the Finnish net, trying to reach Sara Tuominen at the far post. Unfortunately for the Sweden, Erika Holst, trying to keep Tuominen from scoring, deflected the puck into her own net, ending the game. and the tournament, in Finland's Medal Celebrations.

"It's really really, tough" said Swedens goaltender Sara Grahn.

"Losing this game really sucks," added Erika Holst.

"It was a really close game which when we played Finland is pretty a one goal difference in the game." When they went up 1-0 we just had to keep the puck back on the net and determine to tie the game," she said.

Finland's head coach Pekka Hamalainen were all smiles. "This is the highlight of my career. We've made a fantastic journey together, and I'm proud of the commitment the team has shown" he said.

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